Letdowns against inferior opponents have plagued Wake Forest over the past month. A loss to lowly Georgia Tech was especially perplexing.
After continuing their success against Top 25 teams, the eighth-ranked Demon Deacons look to avenge what was perhaps their most embarrassing defeat of the season when they host the last-place Yellow Jackets in an ACC matchup Wednesday night.
Wake Forest (19-4, 6-4) improved to 16-0 and earned the No. 1 ranking after a 78-68 win at then-No. 10 Clemson on Jan. 17. The Demon Deacons have beaten two ranked teams since and are 4-0 in such games this season.
After facing the Tigers, though, Wake Forest lost four of six before beating then-No. 25 Florida State on Saturday. That stretch included a Jan. 28 win over Duke - then the top-ranked team in the country - but also a last-second 76-74 loss to the Yellow Jackets (10-14, 1-10) three days later.
It is Georgia Tech’s only ACC victory, and a prime example of the struggles Wake Forest has had against lower-tiered opponents. The Demon Deacons’ last three defeats have been versus teams from the bottom half of the ACC standings.
Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio believes his team gets overconfident, leading to lackluster play.
“They’re learning you’ve got to play everybody,” he said. “But when you put a challenge in front of them, they meet it.”
Losses to teams such as North Carolina State and Miami have likely ended Wake Forest’s chances of capturing the top spot in the ACC. The Demon Deacons trail first-place North Carolina by 2 1/2 games.
“We seem to play to our potential when we play tougher competition,” center Chas McFarland said. “Not to degrade anybody else, but when we play somebody at the bottom of the ACC, we tend to kind of slack off and play lackadaisical.”
Another loss to the Yellow Jackets would be demoralizing. Wake Forest has dropped three straight and five of seven against Georgia Tech.
In the last meeting, Yellow Jackets freshman Iman Shumpert secured the win after hitting a pull-up jumper with one second remaining.
It overshadowed a rare ACC matchup of brothers. Georgia Tech senior Alade Aminu had 10 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high six blocks while younger brother Al-Farouq Aminu topped Wake Forest with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
It was the second meeting of brothers on opposing teams in conference history. On Jan. 3, 1969, Wake Forest’s Jerry Montgomery faced his brother Roger in a Demon Deacons win over Maryland.
Al-Farouq Aminu led Wake Forest with 17 points against the Seminoles. The freshman forward is averaging 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Demon Deacons sophomore guard Jeff Teague, averaging a team-high 20.2 points, had 15 versus Florida State and has been held under 20 in five of his last six games. Teague had 16 points in January’s matchup with Georgia Tech.
Yellow Jackets forward Gani Lawal had a game-high 25 points in that game, but was held to seven in an 86-65 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday.
Georgia Tech, which has lost four straight and nine of 10, has no momentum as it tries for another upset of Wake Forest.
“I imagine the game on Wednesday night will be a little more intense,” coach Paul Hewitt said. “They have got the revenge factor going and we are trying to break out of a tough stretch.”
Wake Forest leads the series 34-32.